Stephen Peters hit a half-century to leave Northamptonshire’s match against Leicestershire evenly poised after the second day, after Olly Stone had earlier taken three wickets to help bowl the hosts out for 305.
Starting their second innings with a deficit of 54, opener Peters hit his first 50 of the season, and despite falling shortly after without adding to his score, captain Alex Wakely’s unbeaten 28 saw Northants through to the close on 105/2, a lead of 51.
Wakely’s men would have hoped for a first innings lead after five wickets in the morning session, with two apiece for Stone and David Willey, reduced Leicestershire to 176/6, but an eighth wicket stand of 87 between Ben Raine and Clint McKay took the hosts past 300.
Stone signed a new contract last week keeping him at Wantage Road until the end of next summer and after play said he was glad to back that up with a positive display with the team happy with their position going into the third day.
“The news of me extending was really nice after an injury-hit season last year,” he said. “It’s nice to come out and just show what I can do again and I’m just grateful to be playing cricket and hopefully can perform well over the next couple of days.
“We knew last night we had bowled poorly and if we went at it today wickets would fall in clusters, and if we were patient they would come, Dave and I got together and make sure we were giving them nothing.
“We’re really positive about it, we’re saying if we can get a big enough lead, even 250 and bat all day tomorrow, it gives us a very good chance of winning the game on day four.
“The lads up front got stuck in and got on well and then Wakers and Newts at the end finished it off nicely so we’re very happy with the way it’s gone, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
It was a morning of two halves for Northants’ bowlers as Angus Robson and Ned Eckersley blunted any attempts of early breakthroughs with a determined partnership to take Leicestershire from their overnight 102-1 to 139-1.
But the introduction of David Willey and Olly Stone provided the inspiration and after building a spell of pressure, Robson tried to force one from Willey and edged to slip to depart for 75, sparking the second hour collapse.
Eckersley (28) edged Stone to second slip, Willey bowled Neil Pinner off an inside edge without scoring, before Stone produced a fine delivery to clean bowl Mark Cosgrove for 11. When former Northants man Niall O’Brien (nine) was caught behind in the penultimate over before lunch the hosts had lost five wickets for 27 runs.
Stone picked up his third shortly after lunch as Tom Wells (14) edged behind, but Northants’ hopes of a first innings lead were frustrated by McKay and Raine’s partnership, adding 87 in 17 overs to swing the momentum once more.
However with the new ball imminent, both fell on 47 looking for quick runs, McKay holing out to long-on from Josh Cobb, while Raine was bowled by Azharullah, and Rory Kleinveldt finished off the innings, removing last man Charlie Shreck for nought.
Peters got the Northants reply off to a flyer with three consecutive boundaries off Charlie Shreck, while Richard Levi was in more watchful mode, taking 42 balls to find the boundary. Levi had curbed his natural attacking intent but never looked comfortable, surviving a drop a third man off Raine, but departed two overs later for 18, edging the same bowler to second slip.
Peters and Wakely both rode their luck with dropped catches, at second slip and fine leg respectively, but appeared to be seeing Northants through to the close, the former reaching a first half-century of the season off 89 balls.
However with the light closing in, Peters couldn’t add to his tally, falling in the following over, slicing Shreck to the gully. After a short break for bad light, Rob Newton joined Wakely in seeing out the remaining seven overs with few alarms, to take Northants’ total into three figures just before the close.